UPDATE 11.15am: The fire alert for Greenbushes and areas to the south has been downgraded as firefighters continue to build containment lines ahead of the blaze.
The Department of Fire and Emergency Services issued the latest alert at 11.15am.The watch and act alert has been issued for people south of Hay Road, west of South Western Highway, north of Forrest Park Avenue, west of Maranup Ford Road, north of the Dalgarup plantation and east of Wetherley Road and south of the Nannup-Balingup Road in the Shires of Donnybrook-Balingup, Bridgetown-Greenbushes and Nannup.
There is still a possible threat to lives and homes as a fire is approaching the area and conditions are changing.
The historic Southampton Homestead was gutted yesterday after a string of fires blazed a path of destruction through four shires in the South West.
The heritage-listed property, which was built in 1862 and is about 12km south of Balingup, was one of two properties destroyed when fires started by lightning ripped through the shires of Nannup, Donnybrook-Balingup, Bridgetown-Greenbushes and Manjimup. A home 900m away was also destroyed.
Firefighters are also getting reports that a third property has been destroyed.
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The Southampton Bridge over the Blackwood River has also been badly damaged.
Overnight conditions allowed more than 200 firefighters battling the blaze to make progress on containment lines.
DIFFICULT TERRAINThe bushfire is moving slowly which is allowing firefighters to continue to make progress on constructing containment lines. They are now focusing on the southern boundary.
The bushfire is burning in steep difficult terrain and is still out of control.
Yesterday residents were forced to flee their homes as the ferocious blaze spread through more than 3385ha. More than 150 residents of the region gathered at the Bridgetown Recreational Centre last night and more are expected to turn out for another community meeting at 10am today. A community meeting will be held in Greenbushes at 11am at the Greenbushes Hall.
Department of Fire and Emergency Services deputy incident controller Danny Mosconi said earlier that the terrain and wind had made it difficult to contain the fires.
Firefighters were being helped by six water bombers and two helicopters.
The small town of Greenbushes remains under threat this morning from the blaze that had started west of the Blackwood River.
SCHOOLS, MINE CLOSED
Greenbushes and Balingup primary schools will be closed today because of the bushfires.
Greenbushes Lithium Operations general manager Pat Scallan decided to close the mine today because he was told a wind change could put it under threat.
Mr Scallan said a skeleton staff would stay behind to protect infrastructure and help emergency services if needed.
“We’re not up and running today. We decided to shut down as a precaution,” he said. “We did a lot of good backburning and fire breaks last night.
“The fire hasn’t spread that much, but it’s only 5km out of town and at the rate at which it moved yesterday, there’s still a threat.”
The Bibbulmun Track was closed between Balingup and Donnelly River Village.
BEER STILL FLOWING
Greenbushes' Exchange Hotel owner Julian Bingham said he would keep his doors open despite the fact all his guests had checked out.
“They evacuated the minesite and obviously the guys that live with us work on the minesite,” he said.
“They have all checked out and gone back home.
“The hotel does smell pretty strongly of smoke from yesterday, but we’re open today, we’ll be open at 2pm.
“We’re all just waiting now, listening to the radio and checking for updates.”
Bridgetown resident Dennis Lingane said he listened in horror as radio announcements indicated the blaze was heading towards his property.
"We are just being told that we have to evacuate or stand and fight and frankly I don't think any possessions are worth lives so we will just go away and hope they contain it," he said.
He said he turned on his sprinklers, collected tax files and irreplaceable books before fleeing his home to attend the community meeting in Bridgetown.
Donnybrook resident Nathan King, who helped fight the fires yesterday, described the blaze as aggressive and fast moving.
This morning residents who are still in Greenbushes are advised to leave via South Western Highway towards Bridgetown.
"The wind remained south-westerly overnight and is expected to continue throughout the day. This means homes in Greenbushes may be impacted," a spokesman said.
A bushfire Watch and Act has been issued for people in the area bounded by Hay Road, Nannup-Balingup Road, and South West Highway, excluding Balingup townsite in the Shires of Donnybrook-Balingup and Bridgetown-Greenbushes.
A bushfire Advice is also in place for people in the townsites of Bridgetown and Balingup including the area north of Brockman Highway and east of South West Highway from Hester townsite north to Balingup in the Shires of Donnybrook-Balingup, Bridgetown-Greenbushes and Nannup.
A bushfire Advice also remains for people east of Dalgarup National Park and plantation, north of Brockman Highway, east of Maranup Ford Road and south of Greenbushes townsite and minesite in the Shires of Donnybrook-Balingup, Bridgetown-Greenbushes and Nannup.
This morning incident controller John Tillman told ABC Radio that while condition were good, the area "still wasn't out of the woods".
"This fire we're dealing with here is in extreme country in the Blackwood Valley," he said.
Glenda from the Bridgetown Kennels and Cattery, about 8km out of Greenbushes, said she had been up all night checking the horizon.
“We’re in the lap of the gods at the moment, it just depends on which way the wind blows,” she said.
COVERED IN ASH
“All the vehicles here are covered in ash. We were getting a few little embers yesterday and that’s the problem.
“The fire’s probably about 5km away. The only godsend is that it’s actually burning in a mostly unpopulated area.”
Glenda’s facility has about 50 animals onsite, including a dog which was brought to her yesterday from one of the houses that burnt down.
She said the situation was not as bad as the 2009 fires.
“It’s not as bad yet, but saying that, we thought we were fine in 2009 until the wind changed and it was on us in 20 minutes,” she said.
Melva Browne from Maranup Ford Bed and Breakfast said police had evacuated the guests from her caravan park.
“I really feel for anyone that loses their home. It’s really not that close to our place though,” she said. “We’ve had fires near our place before and we’ve stayed here and defended it.
“It burnt the garden but we defended it - we know what we’re doing.”
Further south there is a bushfire Watch and Act advice in place for people in the Kin Kin area 25km east of Manjimup.
The Department of Environment and Conservation warns people east of Wheatley Coast Road, north of South Western Highway, south of Muir Highway and west of Strachan and Curtin roads to be alert.
A lightning strike started the blaze on Tuesday and it is burning in a northerly direction towards Muir Highway."If you live in the Kin Kin area and the way is clear to Manjimup leave via Muir Highway, Wheatley Coast Road or South West Highway towards Manjimup. If it is unsafe to travel west, head east to Mount Barker," a spokesman said.
A Department of Environment and Conservation
The fire, which has burned 800ha, has been contained but is not under control and is still unpredictable.
Sixty DEC fire crews and 20 Shire of Manjimup volunteer bushfire brigade firefighters are on the scene, assisted by three bulldozers and one front-end loader. Waterbombers and a helicopter will be used this morning to help ground crews.
People in the Perth metropolitan area have also been warned of smoke issues from the South West fires.
The smoke is expected to clear this afternoon as the sea breeze comes in, but more smoke is entering the system and it may build up again overnight.
The smoke is being trapped under an inversion that acts as a ‘blanket’ keeping it relatively closer to the ground. This inversion prevents the smoke dispersing until temperatures rise and ‘punch a hole’ in the inversion layer and the surrounding atmosphere becomes more unstable.
Motorists who encounter smoke should turn on headlights and travel at appropriate speeds.People with conditions exacerbated by smoke should take precautions in line with their medical advice for these circumstances.